Time, place and manner

A small but significant step in the development of any nonprofit from kitchen-table enterprise to community-based going concern is the scheduling and location of Board meetings.

  • Just having a regular schedule for Board meetings makes it more likely that current Board members will attend (because they’ve put it in their calendars months in advance) and that prospective Board members will sign up (because they CAN put it in their calendars months in advance).  Board Presidents and Executive Directors think they’re being inclusive by scheduling every meeting afresh and considering everyone’s calendar idiosyncracies; in fact, they’re being unintentionally exclusive, screening out people whose busy lives require advance planning.  And it’s as true for Board membership as for any other endeavor: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”
  • But not all regular schedules are created equal.  Another essential step toward Board growth and diversity is to choose a business-friendly time, and that means giving up the weekend morning kaffeeklatsch for a weekday morning or evening.  Scheduling the Board’s work for a weekday shows a regard for Board activity (and the agency as a whole) as a serious commitment rather than a social engagement or hobby.  And why put an extra obstacle in the way of Board recruitment?  Weekends are family time for businesspeople, especially business women, and if you don’t impinge on them you increase the likelihood that those desirable prospects will be willing and able to participate in the governance of your agency
  • Weekend Board meetings also tend to take place at someone’s house; and most people are at least a little bit uncomfortable going into a stranger’s living room.  It’s hard to remember, when you all know how friendly and welcoming you are, but to newcomers a meeting at someone’s home feels like a party they’re crashing.  Again, why put obstacles in the way of inclusiveness?  Someone’s office is neutral territory–we all go to strangers’ offices for meetings all the time–and “neutral” in this case means “welcoming.”

So if you’ve just agreed to a regular weekday schedule and a central business location for Board meetings, recognize and celebrate your transition to the big leagues.  And if you haven’t, please consider doing so sooner rather than later: it may seem to be a step toward stiffness and formality but in fact is just the opposite, making your agency more appealing and welcoming to the diverse Board you’re trying to attract.


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